ALPHA, an air combat system that runs on artificial intelligence, has defeated a pilot and experienced flight instructor from the United States Air Force in a virtual battle.
Colonel Gene Lee, who sparred with artificial opponents since the 1980s and trained thousands of pilots for the United States Air Force, was shut down multiple times in a flight simulator. Lee wasn’t able to hit his opponent a single time.
Lee calls his artificial opponent the most aggressive, fast, dynamic and believable artificial intelligence he ever confronted. Even when ALPHA was provided limitations, the computer was still able to defeat colonel Lee with relative ease.
In the Journal of Defense Management Lee describes that it appeared as if the system was able to predict all his intentions and was able to respond immediately when rockets were fired at it.
ALPHA is being developed by the University of Cincinnati to function as a so called virtual co-pilot, meant to assist pilots by providing them tactical advise in combat situations.
Surprisingly the advanced air combat system is able to run on relatively simple hardware. The version that was used to fight Lee was trained on a consumer desktop computer worth around $500 USD, but in theory the system could already be operated on a much simpler computer, such as a Raspberry Pi minicomputer worth $35 USD.
When ALPHA will be implemented in real jet fighters and if it can operate a real aircraft without human assistance is still unclear.